I have been making steady progress with writing the emperors book, but not quite at the rate I had being hoping. That is to say, I have not often made my target of 1000 words a day. But (as is always the way) as soon I should really be doing something else I start to have a spurt.
That ‘something else’ is the lecture I am giving on 3 March at the British Museum (for the LRB) on ‘Women in Power’. In some ways it is a sequel to the ‘Public Voice of Women’ that I gave in 2014, but it has got to go a good way beyond that and not just repeat, with variants. In that old lecture I explored the way that women in the West, from the Homeric Age on, had quite simply been SHUT UP by men (‘Oh do shut up, dear’ was its other title). Now I want to take a closer look at some wider aspects of female power (or powerlessness).
It’s fairly clear to me that – whatever individual examples of political leaders etc you can now think of -- there really is no cultural template for powerful women. Look, for example, at the political uniform of the trouser suit, adopted by Angela Merkel and Hillary Clinton (as near to male costume as you could get). And it’s fairly clear too that there is a good deal of misogyny in the public sphere. But that on its own isn’t very interesting (of course there is, you might say). What is much more interesting, and harder to pin down, is what kind of misogyny, with what kind of cultural roots, and with what effects. I’m certainly going to be having a look at the image of Medusa, deployed against Clinton, Merkel and others.
The other issue of course is what we mean by women ‘in power’. Most of the discussions out there are about either women in the legislature (a ranking topped by Rwanda with 63%) or about women as CEOs. But is that what we mean by ‘power’ with all the superwoman and glass ceiling associations? I don’t think it can be the be all and end all. But how do you redefine…?
Well that’s what I am thinking about. And, in comparison, writing about emperors seems a smoother path.
Here's the link to the otehr version: http://www.the-tls.co.uk/displacement-activity/